Source: The Forward
The Democratic Party has spent the first couple days of its convention projecting unity on issues from fighting racism to fair trade.
But fissures are showing here on one issue that Democrats have long been united on: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Their party, which has long commanded the vast majority of Jewish votes, like the Republican side has defined itself as pro-Israel — ensuring military aid to Israel and defending it on the world stage. But some Democratic delegates believe that should change.
Delegates for Bernie Sanders, many of them young, would like to see America’s sympathies shift from robust support of Israel to outspoken opposition to the oppression of Palestinians. These delegates see opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as of a piece with other human rights issues they champion.
“Absolutely we need to take a stand on the occupation of Palestinians,” said Jennifer Merecki, a Sanders delegate from Montana. “The U.S. should stop funding Israel. They use that money for the oppression of Palestinian people.”
The change in U.S. policy that Sanders delegates are demanding tracks with a generational divide in the Democratic Party. While more older Democrats want the United States to favor Israel over the Palestinians, among Democrats ages 18 to 29, support is equally divided between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a late 2014 Washington Post poll.
In May, the Pew Research Center found that more liberal Democrats, and more Sanders supporters, sided with the Palestinians over Israel, some 40 percent to 33 percent. Seventy-one percent of millennials voted for Sanders, as opposed to 28 percent for Clinton. Republicans favor Israel over the Palestinians by wide margins.
Several delegates, for both Sanders and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, suggested that the United States take measures it has already long taken. Some called for the U.S. to convene negotiations between the two sides, which Democratic and Republican administrations have attempted every few years. Others said the U.S. should oppose settlements, which it has since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.
But all who said they want U.S. policy to shift emphasized that they want the government to take a more vocal stand in defense of Palestinian rights.
“We feel Palestinians deserve their own nation and that they deserve human rights,” said Elacido Salazar, 71, a Sanders delegate from Northern California whose wife, Bobbie, wore a pin that said “I support Palestinian human rights.”